Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sources: Police recover murdered couple's SUV

Police have found the SUV stolen after a Lansingburgh couple was brutally beaten to death on Aug. 19.
Details are scant, but sources did confirm police have recovered the blue 2013 Ford Escape SUV owned by Al and Maria Lockrow.
Where it was located and the condition it was found is unclear. Also unclear is if finding the vehicle assisted investigators identify and/or locate the suspects.
The couple was found beaten inside their 709 First Ave. home when police responded to what they thought was a routine domestic call shortly after 2 a.m.. Witnesses claim they saw two men walking away from the home carrying something that looked like a baseball bat.
Al Lockrow was pronounced dead on the scene. Maria Lockrow later died of her injuries.
Police have questioned Thaddeus Pietrak, Maria Lockrow’s brother who was arrested in 2005 for allegedly trying to kill their mother and again in 2012 for assaulting Maria. They also twice questioned a clerk at the Lansingburgh OTB where Al Lockrow was a regular. Kyle Kilgallon was considered a person of interest.
More information as it becomes available.  


Friday, August 29, 2014

Police question OTB clerk for second time in double homicide investigation

On Friday, for the second time, police questioned an employee at the OTB in Lansingburgh.
On Aug. 22, they first questioned the clerk at the Second Avenue gambling establishment in relation to the brutal, Aug. 19 murder of Al and Maria Lockrow.
Al Lockrow was an OTB regular and had just won a sizable amount of money but had not cashed the ticket before he was murdered.
The two were found bludgeoned to death in their 709 First Ave. home when police responded to what they thought was a routine domestic incident. Inside they found Al Lockrow beaten to death. Maria Lockrow later died of her injuries.
Witnesses said two men left the trailer holding what was appeared to be a baseball bat. The two men then took the couple’s 2013 Blue Ford Escape SUV.
Earlier, police questioned Thaddaeus Pietrak, Maria’s brother, some six hours after the murder and he said the car was spotted on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge – which spans the Hudson River between Catskill and the City of Hudson. Sources confirmed there was a “ping” or a photo of the SUV captured on the bridge shortly after the murders.

Pietrak, of North Greenbush, was arrested for trying to kill his mother in 2005 and assaulting Maria Lockrow in 2012.

Police also considered Kyle Kilgallon a person of interest.
The longtime clerk’s last name could not be confirmed Friday night. More information as it becomes available.  


"Out-thug the thugs"

People in The ‘Burgh, and some on the Council, are calling for a return of the Street Crime Unit. So I say give it to them.
Police Chief John Tedesco, instead, said he will suspend all training and put 20 more cops on the streets. I’m pretty sure the “suspend all training” is directed at the Emergency Response Team, a SWAT like unit sporadically used in drug raids and the like, but be that as it may. Twenty more cops on the street can’t do anything but good.
As for the SCU, just reinstating the unit doesn’t mean it will be as successful as it was in 2007 when it first kicked off in Troy.  
It takes a special kind of cop to make it work. One with enough guts to go nose-to-nose with thugs on their level, and to be tough enough to win if it comes down to fisticuffs. It doesn’t mean taking cheap shots if the bad guys are already restrained or are in lockup, and it doesn’t mean just beating random drunken RPI students or citizens for that matter. Some cops are already in trouble for things like that.
“You have to out-thug the thug,” said former Sgt. Dave Dean, who headed up the SCU seven years or so ago.
On the flip side it takes a cop willing to get to know people. Not just the good guys, who can help out in obvious ways, but the bad guys too. The bad guys know more about other bad guys than the good guys and the cops combined. However, you can’t get so close to the bad guys that you forget what team you’re on. There is a fine line between a good SCU cop and a criminal but it is clearly defined. One cop is already in trouble for crossing the line.
In other words, you want a cross between Wyatt Earp and Oprah Winfrey.
Dean and then Deputy Mayor Dan Crawley knew that dynamic and to get the right kind of cop they first had to work around the Police Benevolent Association’s iron clad clause of bidding jobs based on seniority. To accomplish that, they made the job the least desirable on the force. The shift was 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., days off were Tuesday and Sunday, for example, and there wasn’t any authorized overtime. There was some overtime spent on backfilling the positions the six guys left to join the SCU but they got very little for working the detail.
“We wanted guy who were smart and tough … but also hungry,” Dean said. They are few and far between and it's a heavy lift, given the PBA contract, to get them in the unit which is probably why Tedesco is reluctant to reinstate the SCU. It could cause more problems than it's worth if it's not done right.
The six guys who signed up, I’m sure, were recruited by Dean and I’m sure he promised them it would be a good time and they’d be able to do the very things that drew them to police work in the first place – chase down and arrest bad guys.
And they did. A lot of them.
From May to August of 2008, they made more than 300 arrests in the crime plagued North Central neighborhood – 100 in the first month alone. They arrested people for anything and everything. From smoking a joint on the porch – which happened to be the SCU’s first bust – to open container, to excessive noise to littering. No crime was too small, and they often led to bigger busts. The SCU made 20 felony arrests in the first month.
They were pretty much left to their own devices too. One night they would hide in bushes and wait for the chance to pounce. Other nights they walk around and talk to people – good guys and bad guys. Other nights they would just march around the neighborhood in body armor and armed to the teeth daring anyone to bring it on.
Metroland did a good piece on the SCU in August of 2008.
And the SCU did a pretty good job of cleaning up North Central. In March of 2008, seven months after the SCU took over the neighborhood, there wasn’t one robbery or violent crime in North Central. And there wasn’t a shooting in that neighborhood for nearly a year. A year after its inception, though, the PBA contract got in the way, other cops saw the headlines and the fun the SCU was having and the wrong guys ended up on the unit. It just wasn't the same.
Unheard of statistics in North Central, and proof the SCU can work – at least in the short term. But many of the people targeted by the SCU are so transient they just picked up and left. We are seeing that now, with the recent crime outbreak in The ‘Burgh. I dare say that the SCU just chased the bad guys a few blocks north. Or maybe to Cohoes or Albany or Schenectady.
Crime is a byproduct of so many different things that a unit of six officers, regardless of how good or how tough or how well trained, will just not make that much of a difference in the long term. Poverty, drug abuse, broken homes … there is a laundry list of societal ills that contribute to the crime problem in this country.
Of course, it’s still the individual’s choice and they are held individually responsible for their actions. But no individual is an island. The better society is prepared for the individual the better the individual will be. Conversely, the better each individual is the better society will be.
What came first … the chicken or the egg? 



Thursday, August 28, 2014

And yet another shooting in Troy

Police say a man was shot near the corner of 101st Street and Sixth Avenue in North Central.
The suspect, a black male wearing a black t-shirt, jeans and a red baseball cap, is described as mid to late teens, about 5-foot tall with braids coming out from under his hat.
He was last seen fleeing into the woods behind Corliss Park. A State Police helicopter and K-9s are assisting Troy police in the search.
The condition of the victim is unclear at this time.
This comes on the heels of a spate of crime including a shooting Tuesday and the brutal beating death of two people on First Street. No arrests have been made.  

At around 11:30 p.m., there were reports that the shooter was in custody.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another shooting in Troy

There was another shooting at Eighth and Jacob streets in Troy shortly after 6 p.m.
A man was shot in the stomach and was taken to a local hospital.
 More details as they become available.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Second person of interest in 'Burgh double homicide

Some six hours after a brutal double homicide, police questioned the brother of one of the two Lansingburgh victims but found no evidence to pursue the inquiry.
Now, police consider Kyle Kilgallon a person of interest, according to sources close to the investigation. Kilgallon, 57, grew up in Lansingburgh and in recent years has split his time between his hometown and Florida. Longtime residents of Lansingburgh have seen him around town as of late and he is known to frequent the OTB parlor on Second Avenue.
Police are investigating the murder of Allen and Maria Lockrow, who were found brutally beaten to death inside their 709 First Ave. home early Wednesday morning.
According to other sources, Allen Lockrow, who liked to play the horses, hit a race worth a substantial amount of money. However, according to sources, he did not cash the OTB ticket.
2001 mug shot of KYLE KILGALLON
from Charlotte, Florida 
One theory is that he hung onto the ticket because he was looking for a way to avoid paying taxes New York state demands on larger winnings. Any payout that is 600 to 1 or more - for example if you bet $1 and win more than $600 - requires the winner to fill out a form applying it to the person’s taxable income. Lockrow was looking for someone who made less than he and his wife – or someone on Social Security or disability - to cash the ticket who may not have to pay any taxes on the winnings.
It's unclear if the winning ticket was left at the scene or if it was stolen.
Police believe the murderer or murderers fled the scene in the Lockrow’s 2013 blue Ford Escape.
Kilgallon is a longtime, well respected family name in ‘The Burgh.
Kyle Kilgallon was arrested in Florida 13 years ago for “domestic battery” and violating an order of protection, both misdemeanors.
Thaddeus Pietrak, Maria Lockrow’s brother, was questioned shortly after the murders. He told the Times Union Kilgallon had a $600 ticket from OTB and criticized police for questioning him about the murders he knew nothing about.
"I got angry with them and asked for an apology," Pietrak said. "They taped the whole thing. On my way out one of the detectives did apologize and say he was sorry for what happened to my sister."
Maria Lockrow had an 2012 order of protection against Pietrak, according to the Times Union, and was arrested for attempted murder in North Greenbush for allegations he tried to strangle his mother, twice.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wiltshire doesn't get the votes to issue subpoenas

The Troy City Council failed to give President Rodney Wiltshire the authority to issue subpoenas because it only got five votes.
The ordinance was introduced Thursday, and as such needs a two-thirds majority to pass. But, Councilwoman Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, was out of town and Councilmembers Lynne Kopka, D-At-Large, Erin Sullivan-Teta, D-At Large and Gary Galuski, D-District 6, voted no leaving the majority with just five votes.
If the ordinance was allowed to sit for seven days, it would only have needed five votes to pass. But, since it was introduced the same night as the special meeting called for just that purpose, according to the Charter, it needed six votes.
It did pass the Finance Committee meeting held prior to the special meeting by the same vote of 5-3, as did an amendment setting a Sept. 11 date for when the subpoenas had to be issued.
But at the special meeting, after it was declared passed by Wiltshire, Kopka pointed to a section of the charter that outlines the process for introducing and passing ordinances. Nobody, including the Democrats attorney, Joe Liccardi, had any choice but to agree with her since it is in black and white.
The five who voted in favor were Wiltshire and Councilmembers Jim Gordon, R-District 1, Dean Bodnar, R-District 3, Bob Doherty, D-District 4 and Ken Zalewski, D-District 5.
Sources close to the Wiltshire camp say the plan was to subpoena Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan and Corporation Counsel Ian Silverman in the Council’s ongoing probe or two controversial demolition projects and the administration’s oversight of the Code Department.
While Rosamilia did strike a deal with Wiltshire, and agreed to have members of his administration testify without subpoenas, he fell short of saying he would testify. The mayor is duly elected, and does represent a separate and distinct branch of government so whether or not the Council has the authority to compel him to testify is not clear.
Silverman is running in a three-way Democratic primary for two seats on the City Court bench. And many feel the timing of Wiltshire’s decision to re-start the hearings after more than a month of dormancy is to embarrass him before he faces incumbent Judge Chris Maier and attorney Keith Gorman.
The Council previously heard testimony from Fire Chief Tom Garrett, who ordered the buildings on King Street demolished by emergency decree while City Engineer Russ Reeves was on vacation. Reeves, who has since resigned, also testified as did Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne. Others, either employed by the city or who have or had a stake in the projects, also gave sworn testimony.
The FBI, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Health Department are also looking into the King Street demolition as well as one at the King Fuels site.
Code Enforcement came under the gun after 51 Third St. was shuttered for lack of a Certificate of Occupancy. The building, which was occupied for about a decade, was being used as a staging ground for people planning to march in protest of alleged police brutality at Kokopellis night club.   
It’s unclear what Wiltshire will do. As it stands the earliest he could call another meeting is a week from Thursday, but Robertson is due back from vacation early next week so he could call another special meeting provided he gives each Council member 24 hours notice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

(UPDATED) 'Burgh murder victim's brother has history of violence

Police believe the double homicide in Lansingburgh was not a random act of violence. Rather, investigators think at least one of the two perpetrators knew the victims and were there for a specific purpose.
While talking to a number of people who knew Allen and Maria Lockrow, one name was mentioned again and again – Thaddeus Pietrak, Maria Lockrow’s brother. Police would not comment on the specifics of the investigation.
In 2005, according to a broadcast at that time by what was then YNN, Pietrak was arrested by North Greenbush Police for trying to kill his mother, Julia Pietrak … twice.
According to the television news station, Pietrak, then 46 years old, tried to choke his mother, who died in 2011 at the age of 89. He prevented her from calling for help and attacked another family member who tried to assist the mother. Both victims were treated at a local hospital. Julia Pietrak died in 2011.

A source close to the Lockrow family said the family member Thaddeus Pietrak was arrested for assaulting in 2005 was Maria Lockrow.
Pietrak, who's last known public address was in Rensselaer, was charged with attempted murder, assault, unlawful imprisonment and harassment.
There is no record of him doing any hard time on the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website but the charges could have been substantially reduced depending on the level of cooperation by the mother and the other unnamed family member. The disposition of the case is not known at this time. 
Wednesday at 2 a.m., Police said they were answering a call at 709 First Ave. and found the door kicked in and the Lockrows beaten with what is believed to be a baseball bat. Allen Lockrow was pronounced dead at the scene, and Maria died on the way to the hospital as a direct result of her injuries.
The two men allegedly stole the couple's blue 2013 Ford Escape and are still at large.
Allen Lockrow was a longtime employee of the Troy Parks and Recreation Department while Maria was employed as a nurse for Rensselaer County.

Council to vote on issuing subpoenas


The city Council will hold a special meeting tomorrow night for the sole purpose of voting to give President Rodney Wiltshire the power to issue subpoenas in the ongoing investigation of two demolition projects and other actions by the administration.
According to sources, three people are in line to get subpoenas, Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan and Corporation Counsel Ian Silverman.

“Ordinance authorizing the city council president to issue legislative subpoenas to conduct the continuing investigation of city conduct and processes concerning the following: Demolition in and around the King Fuels site, demolition in and around the King Street site and oversight and direction of the Code Department,” is the lone item on the agenda.
Previously, Rosamilia agreed to have members of his administration testify in front of the Council without a subpoena. Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne, Fire Chief Tom Garrett and others did answer questions regarding the three areas mentioned above.
But, while the Charter does give the Council power to conduct hearings and compel testimony from anyone working in city government - as well as get documents via a subpoena - the mayor is an elected official and as such represents a distinct and separate branch of government.
Also, Silverman is the city’s attorney answerable to the mayor so he could invoke the sacrosanct attorney/client privilege if he is called to testify. On the other hand, technically, he also works for the Council so, he could answer questions by virtue of the fact his boss is telling him to.
According to the charter, anyone who fails to answer a subpoena and refuses to testify is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be punished with up to $1,000 fine and a year in jail. But the legal quandaries involving the mayor and corporation counsel have not been tested since this is only the second time in 36 years the Council has invoked its investigatory powers.
In addition to the Council investigation, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Health Department and the FBI have also made inquiries about the demolition projects.
Last month, the two investigators from the EPA paid a visit to the home of former City Engineer Russ Reeves asking about the demolition projects. He and his assistant in his newly formed private practice, Barbara Tozzi, who retired from the city shortly after Reeves resigned, also answered questions from FBI investigators.
The buildings on King Street, which are owned by attorney Don Boyajian, were knocked down at the direction of Garrett – who deemed it an emergency - while Reeves was on vacation. Reeves, during his own testimony in front of the Council, said Boyajian previously asked the city could declare them a hazard and knock them down in the interest of public safety but was denied.
The wrecking ball swung prior to any asbestos abatement and while Bombers Burrito Bar, located next door, remained open.
Reeves also said the demolition at the King Fuels site was shut down because construction activity came dangerously close to a natural gas main and because the demolition crew ignored engineering opinions while knocking down buildings. Later, asbestos was discovered littering the site.
During the previous hearings, the city’s decision to shut down 51 Third St. also came under fire. The building is owned by Igor Vamos, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a member of the YES Men. It was used as a gathering place for people who were set to march in protest of alleged police brutality in the wake of the Kokopellis melee. There were questions as to who ordered the Code Department to shutter the building when it had been occupied for years.
The special meeting is slated for 7 p.m. in City Hall. More information as it becomes available.    



Two bludgeoned to death in Lansingburgh, one worked in city Rec. Dept.

Photo by Michela Bell
On the day residents of Lansingburgh are holding a rally to protest a spate in crime, two people were found bludgeoned to death in their neighborhood.
Police were called to 709 First Ave. shortly after 2:30 a.m. for what they thought was a domestic disturbance. When they arrived they found a man and a woman beaten to death with a baseball bat. They are looking for two males driving a blue 2013 Ford Escape. The SUV is registered to a person living at the home, according to the Times Union.
The newspaper is reporting the dead man is a longtime city worker but police are not releasing the names or ages. The couple has been identified as Michael Allen Lockrow, who worked in the city Parks and Recreation Department, and his wife Maria.
The stretch of First Avenue is home to a number of trailers that back up to the Hudson River.
The rally, which was slated before the double homicide, will start at 6 p.m. tonight at Powers Park and it is billed as a way for citizens to show police they are ready and willing to help take their neighborhood back.
More information as it becomes available.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Sources: Cop had close relationship with suspected dealer's sibling

The Troy police officer arrested for allegedly tipping off drug dealers, spoiling a five-house raid by the State Police, had a close relationship with the sister of one of the suspects, according to multiple sources.
According to sources, “Person No. 1” in the felony complaint filed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman works in the Child Protective Services division of the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services and makes $52,000 a year. Officer Brian Gross, who is currently suspended without pay, and the person have or had a longtime, close personal relationship, according to sources.
“Person No. 2” in the document (shown below) charging Gross with felony tampering with physical evidence and three misdemeanors – obstruction of governmental operation and two counts of official misconduct – is Person No. 1's brother.
State Police raided the home of Person No. 2 and four other houses in Rensselaer County expecting to make multiple arrests and seize a good quantity of drugs. They came up empty, “despite extensive evidence of drug activity,” according to the complaint. Gross allegedly told Person No. 1 about the raid to warn Person No. 2. Person No. 2 then gave a heads up to the other suspects.
T-Spin is withholding the names of Persons No. 1 and No. 2 because neither has been charged. Although, it is widely believed that Person No. 1 could be charged with at least obstruction of governmental operation. That, of course, depends on whether or not she struck a deal with the AG’s office to act as a witness should the case go to trial.
Person No. 2 was not arrested in the raid so naming either person paints Person No. 2 as a drug dealer with enough traffic through his Brunswick home – which is right outside the Troy border – to justify a State Police investigation. That is not an official allegation at this time.  
According to the complaint, State Police were prepared to raid five homes in Rensselaer County on Feb. 12 after a lengthy investigation. A source said investigators had been “sitting on a wire” for close to year before executing the raid. “Sitting on a wire” refers to listening to conversations via electronic devices.
Gross was part of a small drug task force at the Troy Police Department and was assigned to the State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team so he had knowledge of internal details of the investigation, according to the complaint.
The first Obstruction of Justice charge is from the middle of January, according to the complaint, when Gross texted Person No. 1 and requested they meet. Person No. 1 told State Police investigators that Gross told Person No. 1 that Person No. 2 has to “’watch (Person No. 2’s) back’ because (Person No. 2) is doing something that had come to the attention of the State Police.”
According to phone records cited in the complaint, on Feb. 10, Gross texted Person No. 1 again and she told State Police Investigator Dennis Churns that Gross told her that “there better not be any drugs inside the home of (Person No. 2) because ‘there was a good chance the police would get a warrant.’”
Person No. 1 then said she went to Person No. 2 and told him that if “he is doing anything he needed to ‘cut the shit’ and get any drugs out of his house.”
It’s unclear whether Gross allegedly sent the text message to protect Person No. 1’s relative or if Person No. 1 used the text to harm Gross. Or if it’s a combination – either intentional or an inadvertent byproduct - of the two. In other words, if it wasn’t an intentional set up by Person No. 1, when confronted with the allegations, Person No. 1 and/or No. 2 decided it was easier to talk than face further scrutiny.
 As far as the felony complaint is concerned, according to lawyers who have reviewed it, the AG has a weak case based on just the text messages and testimony from one person who might or might not have an ulterior agenda, and from another suspected of dealing large quantities of illegal narcotics.
Also, as was previously written, it was difficult to find a motive for a 10-plus year cop - with a clean personal and professional record - to tip off drug dealers. The personal relationship with Person No. 1 is one avenue the AG’s office has explored, according to a number of sources.
Gross is represented by attorney Steve Coffey, who declined comment. Troy Police Chief John Tedesco was unavailable for comment as were the State Police and the AG’s office.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Germano's trial slated for Aug. 25

      The bizarre case of former political boss F. James Germano was postponed for a fourth time and is now on the docket for Aug. 25 in front of Judge Robert L. Pegg in Indian River County, Florida.
Germano’s trial to answer charges of committing a lewd, lascivious or indecent act, a felony, and the misdemeanor of solicitation of a prostitute was initially slated for April.
The now 85-year-old was arrested near his Vero Beach Florida home in November 2012 for allegedly offering a 12-year-old boy $50 for sex. The youngster, who was waiting at a bus stop not far from his home, called his mother from a cell phone. When the mom came to the scene, Germano was still there and he allegedly made her the same offer.
Charges of procuring a person under the age of 18 years old for sex, a felony, and two counts of misdemeanor stalking were dropped by the prosecutor. Germano was later re-arrested on the lewd and lascivious behavior charge. The political boss for three decades remains free on $65,000 bail.
Since this is the fourth time the trial was rescheduled, it’s likely the two sides have tried to come to some sort of plea deal. Germano is 85 years old, after all, and there isn’t even a hint of sexually abusing minors in his history. He’s made some enemies, too, so even a whisper of such a thing would have quickly turned into a shout.
But, to say Germano’s unique charm is an acquired taste is an understatement so my guess is Florida authorities are having a tough time warming up to the man who could have starred in the Sopranos.
Here’s a link to some history behind one of the most colorful politicians to every come out of the Capital Region.


PBA President Bob Fitzgerald retires

I know I’m a bit late on Officer Bob Fitzgerald retiring from the Police Department and as president of the Police Benevolent Association.
I knew about it, and also got a copy of the letter he sent calling for Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, resignation the day he sent it but I chose not to do anything with it right away for two reasons:
-One, because that is exactly the type of media manipulation Fitzgerald used throughout his tenure as PBA president. He released that the day before he retired just to deflect the media from writing about his destructive record as president.
-And two, because it the letter wasn’t news. (And no, I'm not including it in this post.) It might have been news months ago, around the time Doherty held the questionable public hearings about the Kokopellis melee, but to release it when Fitzgerald was all but out the door, the call for a councilman’s head doesn’t mean anything at all. If nothing else it was a weak attempt at salvaging an unsalvageable legacy as president. 
First, let me say, I like Fitzgerald. When he wasn’t talking union shop or pitching a story that you could tell he was into being a cop. He was an evidence technician before becoming PBA president and was, as far as I could tell, good at meticulous handling proof that could make or break a prosecutor’s case. But, the presidency was a 40-hour-a-week gig, and every time you saw Fitzgerald in uniform over the past 11-plus years he was on OT.
Fitzgerald did fight hard for his members during contract negotiations, when they found themselves in trouble and when the administration or the command staff tried to alter the terms of the contract as it related to bidding assignments, staffing issues and even the different divisions within the department.
All that is expected of a strong union leader, but Fitzgerald often crossed the lines from professional to personal, from advocate to activist, from union president to political operative.
Overtime, pension costs, bidding jobs based on seniority rather than merit and other contractual obligations are favorite targets of columnists and politicians with enough guts to go against the politically powerful PBA union. But, they are obligations and the people elected to run the city signed off on them at some time so it’s not the PBA’s fault for getting what they could and then not wanting to give any of it up.
That said, Fitzgerald, just took it too far. I’m really not sure where to start.
I think the first time I was truly offended by Fitzgerald’s actions was the day then Mayor Harry Tutunjian was set to introduce John Tedesco as the new police chief. Fitzgerald didn’t want Tedesco to get the job because he knew as chief he would shake up the department, eliminate some inefficient programs to cut back on overtime and was a staunch disciplinarian.  So, Fitzgerald concocted this bizarre story about Tedesco getting the job because he agreed to squash an investigation into drug use and/or sale by members of Tutunjian’s adminstration. I’m not saying it was a complete fabrication because, as far as I could find out, it was a laborer in DPW who got jammed up so technically it was in Tutunjian’s adminstration. It’s just that the guy worked out of a pickup truck and probably never stepped foot in City Hall.
Then he propped up two on the Council – Kevin McGrath and Nina Nichols – with promises of who knows what if they supported a police commissioner. They convinced Mayor Lou Rosamilia to appoint Anthony Magnetto to oversee Tedesco and that experiment threw the department into turmoil. Magnetto went back into retirement after a year and Tedesco is now back in charge of the department.
And then he sued the city. It’s a pretty sordid story, really. A fellow officer, Steve Seney, was making a stink about residency and promotions – specifically, officers not living in the city were getting promoted ahead of those who did. Fitzgerald wasn’t happy about that and allegedly threatened to tell his wife about an affair Seney was having. There was threats of violence and Tutunjian suspended Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald sued and the city settled for $84,000.
Battles between the PBA and the administration – of whatever party – are legendary. But Fitzgerald took it to a new level. Rather than work within the existing hierarchy, he thought the PBA should run the department and used every tactic of manipulation in futile attempts to achieve that goal.
Sgt. Tom Hoffman is the new PBA president. I don’t know the guy, but he can’t be any more divisive as Fitzgerald.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Troy officer resigns

Police Office Michael Johnson resigned from the force following an incident in Hudson.
In March, a woman Johnson and his brother were with was arrested for allegedly purchasing heroin. Johnson was driving the car.
He was placed on unpaid suspension for 30 days and Internal Affairs began an investigation into the matter.
In 2012, Johnson was stabbed in the leg while on patrol near the Martin Luther King apartment complex. He said he stopped to talk to a group of three males who were acting suspiciously. Johnson was stabbed in the leg before the men fled and he did discharge his weapon. The men were never apprehended and the circumstances surrounding the stabbing remain under question.
The three men in question were never apprehended and while Johnson did fire multiple times at the fleeing suspects, he did not hit any of the suspects or anything else.
The military veteran who was involved in combat in Iraq, never backed off his story, however, and since police brass could not disprove it, they had no choice but to believe it.
That year, he won the "Officer Assaulted Award" for the Jan. 4 incident.
It remains unclear why Johnson wasn’t arrested along with the woman in Hudson.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Police make an arrest in 16-year-old's murder

Police make an arrest in the stabbing death of 16-year-old Eshane Walker in Lansingburgh.
Click here and here for more information.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Judge: Give Mantello access to '13 ballots

      After nine months, Council candidate Carmella Mantello will get a look at the ballots in her bid for At Large seat.
Supreme Court Judge Raymond Elliott signed the document ordering the Board of Elections to turn over all paper ballots cast and accepted and all voided ballots in the November 2013 election.
“This Troy City Council at large election was extremely close, and the people of Troy deserve an answer as to the true and actual outcome of the election,” Mantello said of the race she lost by 65 votes.
Mantello has filed a number of FOIL requests, got a favorable opinion from the state Committee on Open Government and even politely asked commissioners if she could have a gander at the ballots.
Elliott noted that Commissioners Ed McDonough and Larry Bugbee, a Democrat and Republican respectively, never refused the ballots but said they needed a court order to turn them over. 
According to Mantello, the BOE opposed her efforts to get a recount even though the range of her defeat fluctuated between 17 and 65 votes of several thousand cast.  
One irregularity, Mantello said, was at the Knickerbacker Ice Rink in Council District 2, where unofficial results were not posted on the BOE website until 11:30, some 90 minutes after the rest of the districts were posted.
Mantello came in fourth in the race for three At Large seats on the city Council. Democrat Lynn Kopka came in third, 65 votes ahead of Mantello. Democrat Rodney Wiltshire got the most votes of any At Large candidate and is now president. Councilwoman Erin Sullivan-Teta, a Democrat in her first run at office, came in second.
Elliot granted the BOE’s request to allow Mantello access for two hours per day with exemptions made during the time the office is busy with the primary on Sept. 9 and the general election on Nov. 4.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A cop, drug dealers and questions

In the days following the arrest of a 10-year police officer for tipping off drug dealers, some common questions heard around town are: Why? What was his motive? Did he even do it?
Officer Brian Gross is, by all accounts, a well-respected and well-liked cop. He was a member of the highly trained elite Emergency Response Team, similar to SWAT, and a member of the Special Operations Section, which conducts in-depth drug investigations. He is often called upon to train rookie cops. He has a construction related business on the side and is known to have an unimpeachable work ethic. He is married with two children and they all live in a nice home in Brunswick. A storybook life.
So, why?
One thing everyone agrees on is the proof presented in the felony complaint filed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – based on an investigation by the State Police - is pretty weak. Gross set up a meeting with someone and that someone told investigators that Gross told him to tell someone else about the raid. That’s a he said/she said scenario with an extra “he” thrown in.
If Gross is innocent, I hope Schneiderman had something more than a text and a statement from a guy in the drug world before he brought charges. If Gross is guilty, I hope the same thing.
Before I get into the more common scuttlebutt themes of why Gross is in this most unenviable spot, remember that he is a 10-year veteran of a pretty busy department so he should know the ropes a little bit. Now, without further ado:
-He’s a fall guy for State Police investigators on the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, who spent who knows how much time, energy and effort – not to mention money – to set up a raid of five houses only to come up empty. Gross reached out to someone for whatever reason and that someone reached out to someone else and no drugs were found. In the minds of some, 2 + 2 = 5 and he was arrested for tipping off the drug dealers.
-Gross knew the guy he texted from his time on the SOS and tried to set up a routine meeting and the guy is making the rest of it up to save his own ass. Drug dealers are not pillars of the community and I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t be the first time one told a lie, especially when you have the State Police and the AG offering you a deal.   
-On the flip side of that, Gross, through SOS or just by being a cop, could have become friendly with the guy he was texting and the guy who the guy ended up talking to and was doing them an ill-advised favor. Cops, by the nature of the job, spend half their time with people on the “good” side and half with those on the “bad.” Cops and criminals are people too so I’m sure some cops and criminals get along just fine. I’m fairly certain there is a line somewhere that shouldn’t be crossed, and if Gross did what he’s accused I’m even more certain that it constitutes crossing the line.
-Gross was getting paid off by the drug dealers. I guess it’s always a possibility. But people are finding it hard to believe he is even a little dirty, and it doesn’t get much dirtier than putting your colleagues’ lives at risk by tipping off drug dealers. The pay off, too, just can’t be worth it. Then again, greed is one of the seven deadlies.
-He’s on drugs. I find this one hard to believe too because if someone is using drugs to the point of putting everything at risk by tipping off a dealer then someone is going to know and it would have leaked out by now.
-A family member got jammed up somehow and if Gross didn’t help out the drug dealers then that family member was in danger. I’m not sure if I buy this one, but I guess it’s a possibility.

-Or, it could be a combination of any of the above or something completely different.
I guess we won’t know until the case works its way through the court system – if it even gets that far.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

McGrath: A curfew is possible

A common cry in Lansingburgh these days – outside of “call 911!” – is “we want a curfew.” Or, better put, “we want the curfew on the books enforced” to help combat the recent spate in crime that includes stabbings, arsons, open air drug deals, prostitution and gang activity and general unruliness.

But, said Police Chief John Tedesco and Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, the curfew as it’s written is unconstitutional. It might be. I have no idea. Troy’s law, implemented in 2004, has never been tested in court but with some tweaking, according to former Councilman Kevin McGrath, it could be in line with curfews that have withstood judicial scrutiny.

Regardless, the fact remains, if police wanted to enforce a curfew, they could and then have it tested in court later. Police didn’t worry about constitutionality when they were arresting people for not having a bell or a light on their bikes or for jaywalking – just so happens more than 90 percent of those arrested were black or Hispanic. And they didn’t worry about the Constitution when the Street Crimes Unit was out harassing anyone who they even suspected of being up to no good. 
But, police don’t want to be babysitters. That’s the bottom line. I can’t say as I blame them but when more than 200 people show up at a neighborhood watch meeting, something is wrong.
If constitutional rights are a concern, however, there are some tweaks to Troy’s law that would satisfy any concerns because they have been tested in court, according to McGrath.
“Juvenile curfews are legal in New York,” McGrath said. “It’s unfortunate Lansingburgh’s councilman is telling constituents otherwise.”
Gordon said McGrath had four years on the Council to do something about it. He added and he’s “had conversations with people about this” and will be looking into it.
In general, curfews, like Troy’s, that are too broad have been found unconstitutional by the federal courts. While generalities like not discriminating against color, gender or ethnicity are required, exceptions are needed too to protect First and Fourth Amendment rights. Those with the right balance, like the curfew in Dallas, Texas have withstood judicial scrutiny.
For example, Troy’s is broad enough by requiring anyone under 18 years old to be off the streets and any other public areas between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 p.m. through 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
But, when compared to the curfew in Dallas, Troy’s doesn’t offer enough exceptions. In Dallas, where the curfew applies to anyone under 17, those who are married or have ever been married are exempt.
Other scenarios that excused anyone under 17 years old from the curfew in Dallas include:
-Those accompanied by a parent or guardian or were on an errand for a parent or guardian.
-If they were traveling to or from employment or engaged in an employment related activity.
-Minors who were attending school, a religious or organizational function or in the general exercise of their First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech and the right to assemble.      
-Minors are also allowed to engage in interstate travel or remain on the sidewalk in front of their home or a neighbor’s home.
-It also permitted minors from moving about in public areas in the case of an emergency.
Troy’s is similar in that it allows exemptions for employment, religious and school functions and emergencies but it does not include minors accompanied by a parent or guardian or minors out with the permission of a parent or guardian.
Also, in Dallas, police are required to ask the age of the apparent offender and ask them what they are doing out after hours. That would work well anywhere because once a cop asks a group of teens what they are doing the answer 99 percent of the time is “nothing.” I’m guessing about 3 to 5 percent of the time it’s more like “nothing, pig.” All the teens have to say is “holding a prayer service,” which, of course, is far from what any group of teens are doing in Powers Park at 1 a.m. but all they have to do is say it and they are exempt from the law.
A curfew law In Rochester was struck down by the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. But, the court said the city failed to provide enough evidence that such a curfew was in fact necessary.
Tell that to people in The ‘Burgh.